Last Friday, I was invited by Beemster cheese for a Wild Flower Masterclass. With a group of foodies we hit the road, enjoying the bright sunny weather. Lucky for us, we had forest ranger Arjan Postma as our guide. In search of the taste of Dutch polders!
Holland is beautiful. That’s what I realize once again when I walk through the Eilandspolder in looking for edible flowers. According to Arjan there are enough nutritious plants and flowers in this area to survive here, if necessary. Only 2000 years ago hunters and gatherers still lived on these quaggy grounds. So try to remember all his survival tips, while I lose myself in the open landscape surrounding me.
Gathering food in the Dutch countryside goes way beyond chewing on a straw. That much becomes very clear to me. With a large fishing hook Arjan pulls reed from the water and shows us its edible roots. The rhizomes and shoots of cattails are also a good source of carbohydrates according to our ranger. “Nice and juicy, especially during springtime. With the taste of salty cucumber.” Arjan warns us that not everything is edible and some ‘polder knowledge’ is needed to distinguish edible from toxic. With this in mind we keep filling our baskets. Plantain, chickweed, water mint, comfrey, nettles, dandelions …
Cooking in a stolpboerderij
With a full basket, we proudly arrive at the stolpboerderij (traditional Dutch farm) of Naomi Zaalberg , founder of Country Home Cooking. In no time she shows us how to turn our handpicked flowers and plants into a delicious lunch. On the menu we have flower butter and a soup of ground elder, nettles and sorrel. Also a pesto with elder, cleavers , garlic and dandelion leaf, along with a ‘hand picked salad’ of ivy, purslane, elder, mustard leaves, and of course the juicy cattails.
The farmers of the Beemster polder work according to the sustainable Caring Diary program. The starting point is the balance between agriculture and nature, long and short term. And the happiness of the cow. Because a happy cow gives good milk and good milk is the basis for the best cheese, they believe. Beemster cheese was the first to introduce a 100% grazing policy and pays the farmers a stable, fair price. During the Beemster Polder Day 2014, the Dutch polders and their essential role in the Netherlands are emphasized. For more information visit www.weidedagen.nl.